19 September 2006

Eric Hoffer say...

I've been meaning to copy these out for weeks; the magazine itself is Harpers July 2005. From Eric Hoffer's notebooks:

Unused Talents Our doubts about ourselves cannot be banished except by working at that which is the one and only thing we know we ought to do. Other people's assertions cannot silence the howling dirge within us. It is our talents rusting unused within us that secrete the poison of self-doubt into our bloodstream. — 1955.

The Academy Universities are an example of organizations dominated wholly by intellectuals; yet, outside pure science, they have not been an optimal milieu for the unfolding of creative talents. In neither art, music, literature, technology & social theory, nor planning have Universities figured as originators or as seedbeds of new talents and energies. — 1956.

I'm not sure this assertion holds true, 50 years later. Where else is there for new talents & energies to come from?


Schadenfreude The man of words feels better when the man of action comes to grief. There is not the least doubt that depressions have been good for the intellectual's soul. — 1957.

Underestimating To overestimate the originality of one's thoughts is perhaps a less serious defect than being unaware of their newness. There is a more pronounced lack of sensitivity in underestimating (our selves and others) than in overestimating. — 1957.

Lies that preview truth Why is it so hard to tell the truth? Because more often than not the truth is meager and stale. By lying we, as it were, reform the world — arrange things as we would like them to be. And often indeed the lie is a preview of a new truth.

Interlude: a single black loafer on the shoulder of Catasaqua Rd, right where it curves past Applebees — what's the story there?

Back to Eric:

Philosophy I could never figure out — or probably did not take the trouble to figure out — what the great philosophical problems are about. The momentous statements I come across are at best a storm in a teacup. There are quite a number of people who have a vested interest in the stuff, make a noble liviing out of it, and they conspire with one another to keep it alive. — 1977.

And from earlier (pages stuck together when I first opened the mag to start copying out):

Polemics give warmth Perhaps people throw thenselves into heated polemics to give content to their lives, to warm their hearts. What Luther said of hatred is true of all quarreling. There is nothing like a feud to make life seem full and interesting. — 1950.

Brooding I am more and more convinced that taking life over-seriously is a frivolous thing. There is an affected self-dramatizing in the brooding over one's prospects and destiny. The trifling attitude of Ecclesiastes is essentially sober and serious. It is in closer touch with the so-called eternal truths than are the most penetrating metaphysical probing and the most sensitive poetic insights. — 1952.

The desire for praise This food-and-shelter theory concerning man's efforts is without insight. Our most persistent and spectacular efforts are concerned not with the preservationof what we are but with the building up of an imaginary conception of ourselves in the opinion of others. The desire for praise is more imperative than the desire for food and shelter. — 1952.

Little to say If writing gives us satisfaction, we are likely to end up writing for definite periods each day when we have little to say. The hanging on to an empty form is almost natural since it is the form only that we can control and stage. There is, of course, also the unconscious assumption that once you stage the form, the content will come to nest in it of itself. All ritual is perhaps based on this assumption: you stage the gesture and words that go with fervor and faith and you assume that the latter will somehow materialize. — 1952.


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